For Boreal Sons, limitations set them free

By Andrea Hunter
 Guitar’s absence in Boreal Sons’ latest release offers a chance to work on both musical and thematic elements of their sound. Photo: Rachel Pick

Guitar’s absence in Boreal Sons’ latest release offers a chance to work on both musical and thematic elements of their sound.
Photo: Rachel Pick

CALGARY — The songs of Boreal Sons are a certain type of magic. They are earthly but angelic, grounded but lofty, and the trio is soaring to new heights with their upcoming release, You and Everyone. The album is full to the brim with vigor and vitality, and a natural evolution from Threadbare, their 2013 release. The songs are layered with a large array of keys and synth, while their iconic melodies float polyphonically overtop.

After their 2014 European tour as a four-piece, 2015 was spent soul searching and restructuring the band. Evan Acheson (keyboards, synth, vocals), Reagan Cole McLean (bass, vocals, synth), and Zach Schultz (drums, vocals) decided to trust in their experience and vision, and try their hand as a trio. Acheson explains, “This to us was a challenge we were slightly tentative about but also trying to throw ourselves into.” He continues, “In a way… limitations set you free. If you’re working within certain requirements or boundaries, you need to be more creative, need to be smarter in order to create the same quality of an album.”

Boreal Sons are using this lineup change as an opportunity to expand upon their potential, exploring what the absence of guitar could mean musically. Acheson describes how this has led to an evolution of their sound. “We tried to create textures within the spaces that would have previously been filled by a guitar, whether it’s more background ambiance or leading melodic arrangements.” He elaborates, “In other cases we’ve treated the space left behind by the absence of guitar as another instrument, and we’ve tried to use that negative space artistically,”

“What Becomes” opens the album by kicking the door down. A burst of rippling, spacey synth leads into Acheson’s honeyed vocals and heartfelt lyrics. The song evokes a feeling of disarray, of grasping to understand what life is left after loss burns through our foundation. The song smolders on, and the vocal refrain keeps floating like ashes gently falling. “Where are you? Where are you?”

“The song explores our inability to grasp that a loved one is gone,” Acheson explains. “It explores how weird that something as familiar as death can feel so shocking.”

“Strangers,” the third song on You and Everyone, is a stripped-down song reminiscent of Boreal Sons’ classic euphonious ballads. This song explores the album’s second theme: love. Love and death are parallels, in the way that they are both so universal yet so surprising. “Deep down, we know our flaws and shortcomings so well, we’re pretty hard on ourselves.” Acheson says. “And when we truly believe that someone loves us in spite of those things, it’s liberating, it’s completely shocking because it flies in the face of what you think to be true about yourself.”

You and Everyone contains the essence of previous Boreal Sons records, but emboldened through time and experience. There is a bigger range of styles, from grandiose and commanding art-rock to vulnerable introspections set to soft piano. Acheson explores some fundamental truths in life, powerful experiences that happen to all of us. The universality of these experiences gave him the inspiration for the title. “It’s sort of us participating in a shared experience, of death and love.”

Boreal Sons are wrapping up their 14-date cross-country tour in October to support the album. Catch Boreal Sons at the Biltmore Cabaret in Vancouver on October 17th, at the Copper Owl in Victoria on October 19th, and at the Gateway in Calgary on October 22nd.

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